Innovative Design of Facilities to Address Land Constraints

In 1997, Manila Water Company, Inc. (MWCI or Manila Water), a private company, was awarded the concession contract by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) for the east zone area of Metro Manila and nearby Rizal province. Currently, MWCI provides water and wastewater services to over 6 million people from 23 cities and municipalities of eastern Metro Manila and Rizal Province.

At the start of the concession, there were very little available sewerage services in the area, estimated to be at only 3% coverage. In 2004, only about 10% of the population of the East Zone was connected to a public sewerage system, and less than 1% of the generated sewage received secondary treatment. Because of the rapid growing population of the metropolis, the volume of untreated wastewater increased accordingly. This led to the deterioration of Metro Manila's major water bodies, which were found to be polluted with organic wastes.

Steep targets for both septage and sewerage management are in place. Manila Water's wastewater management program comprises of: (i) septage management, including desludging of septic tanks; (ii) separate sewer networks; and (iii) combined sewer-drainage systems.

Some of the challenges faced in the implementation of a wastewater treatment system included: (i) the high costs of conventional sewerage systems; (ii) existing urban infrastructure with its narrow roads; (iii) the lack of available land; and (iv) increasing population and rapid urbanization. In a densely populated city, where real estate is premium, it is difficult to acquire a land that will be conducive for a wastewater treatment plant. There was also the added difficulty of the "Not In My BackYard (NIMBY)" syndrome.

Given all these, Manila Water had to explore innovative ways on how to implement wastewater projects. Manila Water has successfully implemented many projects without having to purchase land. This is done through masterplanning for early land acquisition, eff ective stakeholder engagement, and innovative use of the land. Essentially, Manila Water incorporates a community feature in its facilities to ensure public acceptability for the project as well as inculcate 'ownership'. Common features incorporated are basketball courts, parks, and parking lots. At the same time, Manila Water designs its facilities in a way that will blend in with its surroundings. Many of the treatment tanks are covered, and all facilities are landscaped and maintained on a daily basis.


Gillian Mari B. Berba
Program Manager
Wastewater-Manila Water Company, Inc.